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Novo Nordisk's parent to buy Catalent for $16.5 billion to boost Wegovy supply

Posted on 23 days ago by Laurentina Kennedy

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Novo Nordisk's parent to buy Catalent for $16.5 billion to boost Wegovy supply

Novo Nordisk has notched a win in its race to boost output of its popular obesity drug Wegovy
Novo Nordisk has notched a win in its race to boost output of its popular obesity drug Wegovy

Novo Nordisk has notched a win in its race to boost output of its popular obesity drug Wegovy, with its parent company announcing it was buying Catalent, a key manufacturing subcontractor of the product, for $16.5 billion.

Kasim Kutay, CEO of Novo Holdings, said the deal is core to his company's strategy to support Novo Nordisk and enable the drugmaker to expand fill-finish capacity to meet soaring demand for Wegovy.

Novo Holdings, the investment arm of Novo's controlling shareholder, the Novo Nordisk Foundation, will buy Catalent's shares for $11.5 billion before including debt.

After the deal closes, Novo Holdings will sell three of Catalent's fill-finish sites - in Anagni in Italy, Brussels in Belgium and Bloomington in the US - onto Novo Nordisk for $11 billion. Novo Holdings owns 76.9% of the voting shares in the Wegovy maker.

That capacity is a "a key strategic consideration for Novo Nordisk particularly when making sure there is broader rollout for Ozempic and Wegovy", Kutay said.

Novo faces competition from US rival Eli Lilly's injection Zepbound in the fast-growing obesity drug race. Analysts have estimated the market could be worth as much as $100 billion by the end of the decade.

Runaway demand for the highly effective drugs has sent profits and share prices for both Novo and Lilly soaring. But a major hurdle for both companies is ramping up production.

A bottleneck for Novo has been the need to expand capacity to fill injection pens - a process known as fill-finish - that must be done under sterile conditions.

Catalent's Belgian and US sites already do fill-finish for Wegovy but will eventually stop producing drugs for other pharma companies.

That, along with the addition of the Italian factory, will help the drugmaker boost Wegovy output quicker than expected, JP Morgan analysts said in a note.

Greater control over its supply chain should allow Novo to avoid the manufacturing quality problems Catalent created for the company throughout 2022, said Nicholas Anderson, portfolio manager at Thornburg Investment Management.

Catalent's Brussels plant repeatedly breached US sterile-safety rules in 2021 and 2022 and staff failed to perform required quality checks, Reuters reported last year citing regulatory documents.

The deal is expected to complete towards the end of 2024, with Novo anticipating it will help increase its filling capacity from 2026.

The deal should not raise antitrust issues because the drugmaker is only buying three of the roughly 50 sites Catalent operates, according to a person familiar with the matter, who added that with only one in the US, the US watchdog for foreign investments should not be concerned.

The division of assets between the Danish drugmaker and its parent should ease worries that the deal will disadvantage Catalent's other customers, the source said.

"Novo Nordisk will ensure an ordinary transition and will make sure that all the customers will continue to be taken care of," the source said.

It was not immediately clear which other pharma clients might be affected by the sale to Novo.

The announcement caps a tumultuous period for Catalent, which had been the target of takeover interest from both private equity firms and strategic buyers.

It follows a strategic review as part of a settlement with activist investor Elliott Investment Management in August after Catalent struggled with manufacturing problems including at the Brussels plant.

"When we saw that, we said: There may be an opportunity to do something here. That was the trigger," said Kutay.

Buying the sites will have a low single-digit percentage negative impact on operating profit growth in 2024 and 2025, Novo Nordisk said.

Novo Holdings already owns a contract research organisation called Altasciences and a contract manufacturer called RiteDose, both in the US.